Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Event Review: I LOVE THE 90's Ol' Skool Concert Series & After Party

If you live in Toronto, grew up in Toronto in the 90's, or are familiar with the Toronto party scene, you know without a doubt that Saturday, March 14th’s “I LOVE THE 90’s” concert was a success. For a city that has its fair share of era-themed parties, be it the 90's, a particular genre of music from a particular moment in time, or a particular style of celebration, promoters and DJs have been coming up with innovative ways to enjoy themselves, to share their love of music, and to entertain the often hard-to-please Toronto audience, each and every weekend. From time.

There was nothing original about I LOVE THE 90’s. It’s been done. We’ve seen old school artists trickle through this city so regularly that we’re probably one of the main cities out there that embraces the artists of the past so warmly. If they had a hit in the 80’s, 90’s or early 2000’s..chances are they’ve passed through Toronto in the past few years. We appreciate classics. We don't forget the talent, or how they made us feel. We cling to it! We respect the art form. Toronto loves music, and this was evident at the response on Saturday. For an idea that is commonplace in the city, the I LOVE THE 90’s concert was still executed and received like a brand new concept.

The success of an event is often measured in VIBE, first and foremost. Whether it's a crowd of 150, or a crowd of 1500. One thing that’s undeniable is that the concert had a full house at the Sound Academy, plenty vibes, and this was consistent from beginning to end. The main indicator of the party's effect was that people were enjoying themselves. Immensely.

Before the 11:30pm concert start, the mood was set, and the tracks were running from DJ DOC…the tone was established. It was an evening of high energy, mixed with nostalgia, and the anticipation was heavy. Walking into the venue to an early crowd was a good indication that it was going to be a busy night.

Kudos to the event hosts comedian Jay Martin and MC Kid Kut, who are both staples of the Toronto entertainment scene, veterans of the stage, and clearly seasoned professionals when it came to keeping the crowd engaged, in good spirits, and most importantly, laughing! Jokes were running all night, and surprisingly turned the concert into a comedy show-slash-concert.

Performing a well-rehearsed dialogue about old school music, memories of growing up in the 90's, and paying due tribute to the artists present and those of their era, coordinated with Toronto’s top-of-the-top DJ Starting from Scratch, the routine orchestrated by the three of them was nothing short of excellent. Many surely would have paid full ticket price for this element of the show alone!

The male R&B group vs. female R&B sound clash between Jay Martin and Kit Kut was not only hilarious, but also had the crowd participating as they played SWV, Jodeci, and other classic songs that drove the audience to attend that night. They told stories, set up scenarios, and really brought everyone back to the era of love, romance, and SINGING. From you hear a full audience singing along at full voice to the songs playing, you know that everyone is feeling nice!

The concert was what it was, because of their wit and timing. And who doesn't want to see Jay Martin Bogle-ing on stage in a Rasta wig? Hilarious. They were the glue that held all of the elements together, made the show uniquely TORONTO, and made it a fabulous trip down memory lane, at the same time. Because of how they joined the 5 performances together seamlessly, and broke up the flow of the show by changing up the pace, and engaging everyone in the experience.

The first to hit the stage was R&B group Intro, coordinated in attire, and performing the dance moves and gestures that we expect and appreciate from a group of their calibre. Right away, they came with a sincere 90’s vibe, appreciation for the audience, and executed their familiar hits just the way they were remembered. The crowd was instantly responsive to the upbeat songs, as well as the slow jams, singing along, and vibing with the gentleman. They were great.

After Intro, Jon B blessed the stage with his band, and kept the momentum up singing his familiar songs, as well as hitting up the keyboards for a few interludes as he performed. A true professional, with the same swag that had the ladies swooning in the 90's, he was engaging, sounded fantastic, and made sure to the let the audience know about his upcoming projects as he thanked them and left the stage expressing his gratitude for the support.

Case, responsible for some of the 90's classic R&B bangers and early hip hop collaborations, was a clear welcome addition to the lineup, and definitely got up close and interactive with the audience as he performed the songs that many of the attendees grew up, in the club, and on stereo in the 90s. Many of his hits are easily on rotation at any given urban event in the city, to this day.

Mya hit the stage in full glam, with dancers, lighting, and an extra touch of electricity when it was her moment. Looking every bit as flawless and dancing every bit as tight as she did at the height of her 90's reign, her set was high-energy from beginning to end, and almost ran like a concert-within-a-concert for her segment. She performed a fabulous remix of her hit songs, while executing full dance routine, and even slowed it down a bit for an “unplugged” version of her own tunes, as well as classics by Aaliyah and SWV. The essence of female performers in the 90's was felt strongly through Mya's performance, and it seems as though she hadn’t left the stage at all. Again, a consummate professional and excellent performer.

The only hip hop artist on the lineup, Mr. Cheeks definitely brought a different vibe to the closing of the concert. The Lost Boyz, as well as Mr. Cheeks as a solo artist, were responsible for so many hip hop anthems, that the crowd rapped and grooved along with him as he went through his segment with the wild vibes and that distinct New York energy that almost exclusively ran the hip hop scene in the 90's. His personality and energy were consistent with what we remember of Mr. Cheeks from that era, and his performance was the perfect way to end the concert portion of the evening.

It was at this point where event MC Puddy (aka the Mayor of Nova Scotia) was able to come out and drop his unique James-Browns-reminiscent dance moves, two-step across the stage, and share his east coast Maritime swag with the Toronto audience. The crowd loved him and let him shine as he bumped those shoulders and hit those splits effortlessly in his three-piece suit. Up and down. He was clearly meant to perform and entertain!

Event promoters Urban and Interactive also had a moment to thank the audience for their support, recognize the 40th birthday celebration of Dougie (aka 6Five Ent), and pay homage to their fallen brother Steve Hanslip (aka Sub) who passed away two years earlier, almost to the day. It was a heartfelt and genuine moment from Dougie. Star B also let everyone know that there was more to come from the company, in entertainment as well as community initiatives.

Events come and go in Toronto on a weekly basis. New concepts, various artists, familiar DJs, and new up-and-coming selectors. We are city of spoiled individuals because our musical IQ is so high, and our expectations are even higher. We’ve seen the best, heard the best, and expect the best. Fortunately for all, the success of the I LOVE THE 90’s concert was one that could be felt throughout the room as the night came to an end, and the music continued.

DJ DOC, joined by MC Brenton B, led the remaining dancers into a nostalgic mix of dancehall oldies, soca classics, house music hits, and 90's hip hop and R&B joints for the after party that concluded the night perfectly.

There is clearly a vibration to the 90's and an energy that is so unique to that era, that it can’t be let go. Events, concerts, and throwback sets will continue to run in Toronto because of the impact it had on those who had the honour of growing up in that era and appreciating and experiencing the music first hand.

Special thanks to all who attended the event, who supported Urban and Interactive’s first major production, and who came with positive spirits, open encouragement and welcoming responses to the artists, and overall appreciation for the movement.

Urban and Interactive successfully brought back the love, the dancing, and the great feelings that are remembered about the 90's, and will continue to expand on this Concert Series & After Party brand in the upcoming months. Stay tuned, and thanks again for the overwhelming support.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson (Urban and Interactive Admin & Social Media)